Doomsday Clock stands closest to midnight for second year in a row
A photo of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists meeting to change the Doomsday clock hands in 2024.

Doomsday Clock stands closest to midnight for second year in a row

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As global tensions escalate and catastrophic threats loom large, the annual unveiling of the Doomsday Clock has once again grabbed the attention of the public eye. On Jan. 23 the clock was reset at 90 seconds to midnight for the second year in a row, the closest it has ever sat to midnight since its conception in 1947 after World War Two.

The Doomsday Clock has become a universally accepted symbol representing the likelihood of a man-made global catastrophe. The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by Albert Einstein, J. Robert Oppenheimer and University of Chicago scientists after helping to develop the first atomic weapons as a part of the Manhattan Project. Two years later the Doomsday Clock was created. Midnight on the clock represents a hypothetical global catastrophe as determined by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Using the metaphor of countdown to zero, similar to the countdown to a nuclear explosion, calling on countries to take responsibility for the “existential danger the world now faces.”The clock stands, not as a prediction, but a metaphor for the looming threats to humanity from unchecked advances.

In 2024, the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists decided that the Doomsday Clock should keep its position at 90 seconds to midnight due to rising global tensions as well as climate concerns. The official list the board put out is as follows, citing specific reasons for the set time:

“The Russia-Ukraine war and deterioration of nuclear arms reduction agreements; the Climate Crisis and 2023’s official designation as the hottest year on record; the increased sophistication of genetic engineering technologies; and the dramatic advance of generative AI which could magnify disinformation and corrupt the global information environment making it harder to solve the larger existential challenges.”

Although the clock sits closer to midnight than ever before, not all hope is lost. These scientists are calling for action stating that, “the Clock could be turned back, but governments and people need to take urgent action.”

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